Augusta County sinkhole ponds protected at Virginia’s newest natural area preserve

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A 350-acre site in Augusta County that has long been a priority for conservation is now protected as the Lyndhurst Ponds Natural Area Preserve.

Located near the community of Lyndhurst, the new preserve protects globally rare Shenandoah Valley sinkhole ponds and a variety of rare plants and animals. It is the 65th addition to the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System, a network of lands permanently protected to conserve Virginia’s biodiversity and significant natural communities.

“Lyndhurst Ponds is among Virginia’s highest priority conservation sites, and is a perfect example of the lands we are trying to protect through Governor Northam’s groundbreaking ConserveVirginia initiative,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “By protecting and restoring this rare species habitat, we further our mission to protect Virginia’s biodiversity and address the ongoing global extinction crisis.”

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation acquired Lyndhurst Ponds in June with funds from the DuPont Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement. Habitat restoration at the preserve will benefit many rare plants, including Valley doll’s eyes (Boltonia montana) and Lowland loosestrife (Lysimachia hybrida).

This is DCR’s fourth project protecting sinkhole ponds with the settlement funds. The funds target land conservation projects that also provide habitat restoration opportunities in the South River watershed to mitigate for historic negative impacts to habitats on land and in water.

The Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trustees of the DuPont settlement funds.

“By permanently protecting these sinkhole ponds and forests — which are near the former DuPont facility — we take another step toward restoring the waters, wildlife and lands of this area from decades of harm, and, in turn, benefiting the surrounding communities,” said USFWS Regional Director Wendi Weber. “We look forward to seeing the long-term improvements that habitat restoration will bring at-risk species and other wildlife.”

“Management of Lyndhurst Ponds Natural Area Preserve will focus on maintaining these extraordinary Shenandoah Valley sinkhole ponds, which support an array of plants and animals, some of them rare, threatened or endangered,” DCR Director Clyde E. Cristman said. “We also will focus on restoring riparian forests to benefit water quality and biological richness of the South River watershed.”

Shenandoah Valley sinkhole ponds are characterized by fluctuating water levels throughout the year. Each pond is different and can support small pockets of diverse plants and animals.

“Augusta, Rockingham and Page counties are the only places in the world where these pond natural communities are known to exist, making them some of Virginia’s most significant natural heritage resources in need of conservation,” DCR Natural Heritage Program Director Jason Bulluck said. “Each one of these ponds is unique in its hydrology and the plants and animals that inhabit them in wet and dry periods.

“Protection of Shenandoah Valley sinkhole ponds at Lyndhurst will allow our biologists to better understand the effects of weather, climate change, groundwater and surrounding land uses on their natural heritage resources. This understanding will enable the Natural Heritage Program to develop and implement successful management plans not only at Lyndhurst, but across all preserves with sinkhole ponds.”

The property was formerly used for cattle grazing and was part of the extensive land holdings of Waynesboro Nurseries and the Quillen family.

“Waynesboro Nurseries and the Quillen Family are thrilled that we were able to participate in the conservation of this beautiful and rare habitat,” Waynesboro Nurseries President Ed Quillen said. “It leaves a legacy to the commonwealth of which we are very proud.”

The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System

The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System was established in 1989 to protect the state’s rare plants, animals and natural communities. The system is made up of 65 preserves covering 58,207 acres. DCR owns most of the preserves, but several are owned by The Nature Conservancy, other nonprofits, universities or private individuals. Staff with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program at DCR manage these lands primarily for rare species habitat and unique natural communities, but also to provide education, research and, at some preserves, low-impact recreational opportunities.

Limited funds are available to support the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System, and contributions from individuals can help greatly. Checks can be made to “Natural Area Preservation Fund” and mailed to:

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Natural Heritage Program
600 E.  Main St., 24th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

         
 

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